Women, the Change-Makers

May 28, 2024
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Pictured Above: A self-help group meets

Deep Thought

The Change Makers

Melissa Lipsett, CEO Baptist World Aid, explains the impact of women who are empowered to change their world.

It’s illegal, but 40 per cent of girls in Nepal are married before they turn 18, and seven per cent before they turn 15.  The Nepalese government is hoping to eradicate child marriage by 2030, but is this even possible?  Will this ever change?

I believe it will. Here’s why

I recently returned from Kapilvastu in West Nepal. It’s a region that has major development challenges and a general lack of adequate services. For example, there are no toilet facilities or running water in people’s homes. There are few opportunities for people to generate income and, sadly, high levels of gender-based violence and child marriage.

The challenges are overwhelming, but here’s the thing: communities ARE overcoming them. Baptist World Aid works with local Christian Partners who share our belief in the dignity, value and equality of all people (Gen 1:26-27).

Our Partners bring the locals together in community groups, and it’s the locals who lead the transformation of their communities. Ninety per cent of these community leaders are women. They’re known as self-help groups, and they’re courageously changing their world.

Our Partners bring the locals together in community groups, and it’s the locals who lead the transformation of their communities.

What self-help groups do

Working as a committee, with elected positions such a chairperson and treasurer, members collaborate to make the changes they want to see in their community. These women showed me how they had depolluted their pond and water source.

Some of them have started small businesses.  And I heard stories of how they confronted perpetrators of domestic violence as a commanding group of 17! I saw leadership, determination and courage from the same people who were, until recently, considered less than their husbands, brothers and sons.

"Kumari" Self-help group Nepal, change makers

Emerging from poverty

Every one of these women, these “change makers”, has a story. Many married as children and didn’t have the opportunity to go to school. Quite a few are now mothers, surrounded by little people with constant needs that are hard to meet. In the past they might have given a daughter in marriage to ensure she—and her remaining siblings—would survive.  

But the gains they’ve made in emerging from poverty means they now say, ‘No more! We will not allow our daughters to suffer as we did’. And they mean it.

‘No more! We will not allow our daughters to suffer as we did’.

As I travelled through the area, I could see that poverty is effectively diminished and girls attend school.

One extraordinary facet of these self-help groups is that are made up of traditionally antagonistic social groupings, but with no infighting. They are too busy changing the world.

I wonder if what would happen if we were too?

Melissa Lipsett

Melissa Lipsett is the CEO of Baptist World Aid and is the keynote speaker at the coming EmpowHer Day of Wonder in March 2025.

Melissa is a servant leader, playing active roles across the church and Christian humanitarian aid and development sector. She believes leadership matters, and so does the call of God on our lives.  She is an outspoken advocate for the importance of hearing women’s voices and empowering them to use their God given gifts and graces for the sake of our world.

Want info about the Day of Wonder? SUBSCRIBE to Heartlands, below!

More Deep Thought

The Sound of Silence by Denise Stephenson
Courage to Make a Difference by Mark Wilson
Just Mercy by Michael Henderson



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This article was first published in reCharge, Nov/Dec 2022

NEWS: November 2022 | December 2022

Change Makers